Buster Welch, rancher and horseman, as well as member of the American Quarter Horse Association and National Cutting Horse Association Halls of Fame, will receive the 35th annual National Golden Spur Award on September 7, in Lubbock, Tex.
The only national award of its kind, the Golden Spur honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the U.S. ranching and livestock industry, and is a joint recognition by the American Quarter Horse Association, National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Ranching Heritage Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas Farm Bureau, among other leading livestock and agribusiness organizations.
Welch, also a recipient of the prestigious Charles Goodnight Award, given to persons devoted to preserving the ranching way of life, has won a record five NCHA Futurity championships, as well as four NCHA World Championship titles. His latest championship title came this past December, when at 83, he took reserve in the NCHA Futurity 50th Anniversary Champions Cup.
“The cutting horse is the cowman’s computer,” says Welch, who operates his ranch on horseback, using former and future cutting competitors as mounts. Fellow ranchers, cowboys and friends join in on Welch’s roundups to gather cattle and sort and brand them.
Born and raised in big ranch country near Midland, Tex., with a “burning desire” to become a cowboy, Welch quit school after the sixth grade and earned his first wages on the Proctor Ranch near Midland, Texas, working for Foy and Leonard Proctor. who handled as many as 30,000 cattle a year. Foy Proctor received the Golden Spur Award in 1984, when he was 88.
Welch worked for the Proctors for two years, all the while absorbing invaluable knowledge that could never be taught in a classroom, and after he left the Proctor’s he continued to hone his skills on other ranches, including Reynolds’ Cattle Company’s Long X in far West Texas.
It was rancher and early-day Quarter Horse breeder Warren Shoemaker, Waltrous, NM, who awoke Welch to the possibility of training horses for competition. And it was Shoemaker’s neighbor, Homer Ingram, who sold Welch an unbroken, range-bred colt that he named Chickasha Mike and trained to be a top NCHA competitor in the 1950s.
Welch’s long-term goal was to become a full-time rancher, with a herd of his own, and horse training afforded him the ability to maintain some mother cows, while building toward the future. Marion’s Girl, who he trained for Marion Flynt of Midland and showed as NCHA World Champion in 1954 and 1956, was the horse that launched him into a full-tilt training career that made him a legend with horses such as Money’s Glo and Chickasha Glo, the first two NCHA Futurity champions, as well as Rey Jay’s Pete, Mr San Peppy, Peppy San Badger and countless more.
When Welch retired as trainer and breeding consultant for King Ranch, in the late 1980s, his focus returned to his postponed dream of becoming a West Texas rancher. That dream came true near Rotan, Texas, where for the past two decades, Welch and his wife Sheila have raised cattle under their “B Lazy W” brand.
Welch’s cattle are now in as much demand as his cutting horses. For the past 20 years he has marketed his calves to Coleman Natural Meats, an initial decision that coincided perfectly with the public demand for naturally grown foods.
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